Thanks to athlete's foot, Johnson & Johnson is forging one of the strongest connections.
For years, Johnson & Johnson has partnered with the China Qin Shi Huang Terracotta Army Museum in Xi'an to use its expertise with anti-fungal creams to help preserve the remarkable life-size Terracotta Warriors and Horses, which are more than 2,000 years old.
"We've been activating our Olympic marketing program for the past two years," said Brian Perkins, J&J's VP, corporate affairs, based in the company's global headquarters in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
"For most of our brands and operating companies, the centerpiece of communication in China is a phrase that unfortunately doesn't translate well into English, 'Because we care, we act.' The premise is that life is more meaningful when you care for others. All brands have utilized this message in their promotional materials and now it has come alive during the games."
J&J's Olympic marketing was created by several agencies in China, namely Interpublic Group of Cos.' Lowe Worldwide; WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather; Agenda, an Asian digital agency recently acquired by WPP; and two independent companies, the public relations firm Edelman and sports marketing specialist IMG Sports & Entertainment.
As a tribute to J&J's assistance--without which the relics would have perished from about 60 forms of fungi, including a variety of athlete's foot--the museum allowed the U.S. company to display five of the warriors in its pavilion, the first time they have ever been viewed outside Xi'an without appearing in a museum.
Pavilion visitors and marketers alike have lapped up this rare opportunity.
"Johnson & Johnson has the best pavilion on the Olympic Green, largely because of the Terracotta soldiers," said Greg Paull, a Beijing-based principal at R3, which tracks the brand performance of sponsors. "It was J&J's anti-fungal cream that saved them, a point that is clearly made in their display."
Johnson & Johnson "created my favorite pavilion," said P.T. Black, a partner at Jigsaw, a youth marketing consultancy in Shanghai. "It is spacious and calming [but] the real treat is upstairs," the site of the Terracotta showcase.
For Olympic spectators who miss the real thing in J&J's pavilion, the company has come up with another viewing experience. It created a 22 ft high marionette "warrior" who tells the story of the Terracotta soldiers to another puppet depicting a young Chinese girl. Performances lasting twenty minutes take place four times daily at the Millennium Monument Park in western Beijing through Aug. 25.
Unlike the tone of many pavilions on the green, "we don't scream about our products," said Mr. Perkins. "I've been through many pavilions. In comparison, our setting is more about calmness and serenity. I think that differs from other companies who have more products on display or stress technology more."
The pavilion got off to a rocky start, however. J&J and other sponsors complained to the International Olympic Committee and its local counterpart in Beijing, BOCOG, about the lack of visitors. During the first weekend, the green was nearly empty. But in recent days, foot traffic has swelled as security measures were streamlined to allow more people to enter. Chinese have flocked to the Olympic Green in northern Beijing to visit the pavilions and, of course, shop for souvenirs. According to BOCOG, the park receives about 50,000 visitors daily.
J&J and another sponsor, Lenovo Group, have used their Olympic connections in Beijing to support another charity, Right to Play. Founded by the Norwegian speed skating icon Johan Olav Koss, the organization helps children living in some of the world's most disadvantaged communities by supporting sports programs.
Both sponsors have encouraged Olympic athletes like the American track-and-field star Lauryn Williams to donate items for an online charity auction. Some athletes also filmed short video clips in Lenovo's i.lounge in the Olympic Village, where the athletes reside during the games, describing their journey to the Olympic Games. These video clips are posted online with photos of the auction items and the starting bid.
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